Abbott Pardons Man Who Killed BLM Protestor

A gross miscarriage of justice.

Texas Tribune (“Gov. Greg Abbott pardons Daniel Perry, veteran who killed police brutality protester in 2020“):

More than a year after a Travis County jury convicted Daniel Perry of murdering a protester in Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott pardoned Perry, 37, on Thursday shortly after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended a full pardon.

A Texas state district court judge sentenced Perry in May 2023 to 25 years in prison for shooting and killing U.S. Air Force veteran Garrett Foster during a 2020 demonstration protesting police brutality against people of color.

One day after a jury convicted Perry, Abbott directed the parole board to review the former U.S. Army sergeant’s case.

“Among the voluminous files reviewed by the Board, they considered information provided by the Travis County District Attorney, the full investigative report on Daniel Perry, plus a review of all the testimony provided at trial,” Abbott said in a statement announcing the proclamation that absolved Perry. “Texas has one of the strongest ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive District Attorney.”

Abbott approved the board’s recommendation, which included restoration of Perry’s firearm rights.

Whitney Mitchell, Foster’s common-law wife, said that she had expected to grow old with Foster before Perry murdered him. In a Thursday statement, she said Abbott’s pardon made Texans less safe.

“Daniel Perry texted his friends about plans to murder a protester he disagreed with. After a lengthy trial, with an abundance of evidence, 12 impartial Texans determined that he carried out that plan, and murdered my Garrett,” Mitchell said. “With this pardon, the Governor has desecrated the life of a murdered Texan and US Air Force veteran, and impugned that jury’s just verdict. He has declared that Texans who hold political views that are different from his — and different from those in power — can be killed in this State with impunity.”

Travis County District Attorney José Garza echoed Mitchell’s message about the governor prioritizing some lives over others.

“The Board and the Governor have put their politics over justice and made a mockery of our legal system. They should be ashamed of themselves,” Garza said in a statement. “They have sent the message that the service of the Travis County community members who served on the grand jury and trial jury does not matter. ”

[…]

In a Thursday statement, the parole board said it delved into the intricacies of Perry’s case, by reviewing documents, police report, court records, witness statements and interviews of individuals linked to the case. The board did not elaborate on why it issued a full pardon. The members of the seven-person board are appointed by Abbott.

Perry was driving for Uber at the time he encountered protesters a few blocks from the Capitol in downtown Austin. He stopped his car and honked at protesters as they walked through the street. Seconds later, he drove his car into the crowd, Austin police said.

Foster was openly carrying an AK-47 rifle at the time and during the trial, each side presented conflicting accounts as to whether the protester raised the gun to Perry who was also legally armed. Perry shot Foster and then fled the area, police said. He then called police and reported what happened, claiming he shot in self-defense after Foster aimed his weapon at him.

[…]

Shortly after Perry’s conviction, unsealed court documents revealed he had made a slew of racist, threatening comments about protesters in text messages and social media posts. Days after George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer prompted nationwide protests, Perry sent a text message saying, “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.” Both Perry and Foster are white.

Perry, a U.S. Army sergeant, also sent racist and anti-Muslim messages before and after Floyd’s death. In April 2020, he sent a meme, which included a photo of a woman holding her child’s head under water in the bath, with the text, “WHEN YOUR DAUGHTERS FIRST CRUSH IS A LITTLE NEGRO BOY,” according to the state’s filing.

During his trial, several colleagues in the Army testified that Perry treated everyone fairly, regardless of race. His lawyers called Perry’s social media posts and messages as “barracks humor.”

[…]

In his proclamation, Abbott took aim at Garza’s handling of the case and accused the district attorney of misusing his office. He said Garza directed the lead detective investigating the case to withhold exculpatory evidence from the grand jury.

Abbott said that Garza “prioritized ‘reducing access to guns’ that citizens may use to lawfully defend themselves” instead of protecting Perry’s right to self defense.

In March, Travis County voters handed Garza an easy victory in the Democratic primary after he ran on a progressive platform to investigate more sexual assault cases, prosecute police misconduct and attempt to divert more people from jail. He’s expected to be re-elected in November.

AP (“Texas governor pardons ex-Army sergeant convicted of killing Black Lives Matter protester“) adds:

A Republican in his third term, Abbott has typically issued pardons only for minor offenses, and he notably avoided a posthumous pardon recommendation for George Floyd for a 2004 drug arrest in Houston. It was Floyd’s killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis in 2020 that set off national demonstrations.

[…]

The sergeant’s defense attorneys argued that Foster did raise the rifle and that Perry had no choice but to shoot. Perry did not take the witness stand and jurors deliberated for two days before finding him guilty.

Perry acted in self-defense when confronted by an angry crowd and a person with an assault rifle, Perry attorney Clint Broden said after the pardon.

[…]

Perry served in the Army for more than a decade. At trial, a forensic psychologist testified that he believed Perry has post-traumatic stress disorder from his deployment to Afghanistan and from being bullied as a child.

While I remember the trial, I did not follow the proceedings all that closely. My instinct, then, is to trust the jury absent strong reason not to.

Given Abbott’s history of grandstanding—and the fact that he has been quite stingy with pardons in other cases—this certainly comes across as politically motivated. And, frankly, it sends the signal that murdering Black Lives Matter protestors is acceptable in Texas.

It’s worth noting, too, that having a Pardons and Parole Board as a check on the governor’s veto power makes no sense if said Board is appointed by the governor. That seems like a complete sham.

That Foster was carrying an AK-47 complicates the case considerably. It would not surprise me in the least that he raised it when approached by Perry. The jury was surely instructed on the particulars of Texas’ Stand Your Ground law, though, and concluded that the shooting was not justified. And, frankly, as in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, someone going into a demonstration with a firearm looking for someone to shoot is not exactly the situation Stand Your Ground was intended for.

In the aftermath of the verdict, Perry’s attorneys claimed misconduct on the part of the trial judge for withholding evidence that would have shown that the protests in question were not peaceful and on the part of at least one juror for bringing outside evidence into the deliberations. I have no opinion on other of those claims but note that the Board made no mention of them.

It’s also noteworthy that the considerable evidence that Perry was a virulent racist (and quite probably a child molester) was withheld from the jury prior to their reaching a verdict. It was only introduced in the sentencing phase. Had it been introduced as part of the case in chief, there might well be an argument that it was overly prejudicial.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Race and Politics, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    And, frankly, it sends the signal that murdering Black Lives Matter protestors is acceptable in Texas.

    It seems obvious to me that this is exactly the intent. The message to black and other minority Texans: “The law is not for you, it is is for the ‘right kind’ of white Christians”.

    This is of a part with the Florida (?) case where the black woman charged with voting fraud under an outrageously unjust and extreme interpretation of the law. Why would the prosecutors pick her case, and relentlessly pursue it? You would have to be very generous to them to interpret it as anything other than an attempt to intimidate minority voters. No white voter, at least not a Republican, would ever have been charged. In fact, there have been several cases of white Republicans committing deliberate fraud and receiving far more leniency from the powers that be than this 69 year old black woman who had every reason to believe she was entitled to vote again. But the weakness of the case helps send the message to minorities more clearly: the law is a weapon to be used against you. Leniency and common sense are reserved for the right kind of white Christian.

    This is exactly how Jim Crow governance works.

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  2. Slugger says:

    Perry was convicted after a trial in a Texas court room containing a judge, jury, prosecutor, and defense attorney. This is our system, and it works pretty good most of the time, but is not infallible. Surely there are cases where the judge is asleep, the prosecutor whips the jury into a frenzy, and the defense is complacent or outright complicit. The governor should act in such situations. We have been told little about the flaws in this trial except a reference to “stand your ground.” Were the judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys unaware of this part of Texas law? I’d like to see a review of the case by an actual attorney. Without some explicit cause, many will see race based preferential treatment here.

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  3. Mikey says:

    @MarkedMan: These two incidents are the most emphatic expressions of Wilhoit’s Law: “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: there must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

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  4. Paine says:

    I find this decision to be absolutely appalling. At least with the Rittenhouse case it was the jury that let him walk.

    This idiot indicated intent to hurt or kill protesters; there is video evidence of him driving his car (also a possible weapon) into an area for no other apparent reason than to harass the protesters; eye-witnesses all reported that the victim never raised his gun in a threatening matter; a jury of his peers all heard the evidence and found him guilty. But apparently Abbott and the pardon committee know better. Maybe Texas should just get rid of juries and let Abbott make decisions about guilt and innocence.

    This guy is going to be a celebrity in the right-wing alternative universe like Rittenhouse. ABbott is giving the green light to any right-wing nut job to blast away at the slightest provocation when the target is anyone even slightly aligned with “the left.”

    Really, this is just short of issuing Liberal Hunting Licenses to right-wing nut jobs.

    It’s an outrage.

    Paine

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  5. gVOR10 says:

    Abbott’s now a leg up on DeUseless in their MAGA pandering contest. He’s pardoned an actual murderer, DeUseless only made it legal to drive into a protest.

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  6. Jen says:

    This is sad and depressing and infuriating. There are days when I think that “deplorable” just isn’t strong enough a descriptor.

    Imagine having the power to pardon and using it…like…this.

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  7. DK says:

    @Jen: Remember when Hillary was attacked for rightly, and mildly, calling lawless MAGA thugs like Abbott “deplorable” — while journos repeatedly assured us Trump’s lies about ethnic minorities = “he tells it like it is”?

    Pepperidge Farms remembers.

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  8. DrDaveT says:

    And, frankly, it sends the signal that murdering Black Lives Matter protestors is acceptable in Texas.

    Ironically, Abbott could not have made a stronger case that we need a Black Lives Matter movement.

    A few questions about the Texas stand-your-ground law. Is it specific to firearms? I mean, if Perry had punched Foster in the nose, he’d be guilty of assault, but shooting him dead is protected? How about stabbing him? Also, does the law allegedly care who instigated the confrontation? Given a conversation turning into an argument, does the law say that whoever can draw and shoot fastest is the actual victim, and the dead person was the aggressor?

    Had Foster managed to duck and then shoot Perry in self defense, who here doubts that he’d be on death row now, and that the idea of pardoning him would never have occurred to Abbott?

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  9. Kingdaddy says:

    One of the hallmarks of fascism is institutionalized lawlessness, in the sense that the laws apply to thee, not to me. (Or, to put it less elegantly, the law should not apply to those the fascists favor.)

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  10. Charley in Cleveland says:

    Stand your ground has devolved from the reasonable rationale of one being able to protecting their home (Castle doctrine) to a license to provoke and then kill. This slide into legal anarchy has been accelerated, if not caused, by the warped interpretation of the 2nd amendment as giving an absolute right to everyone to carry a gun. When charlatans like Scalia and Alito were channeling the Founders it seems they forgot about that “well regulated militia” thing. So now we have the likes of Kyle Rittenhouse and this piece of Texas excrement arming themselves and looking to shoot someone and then proclaiming self-defense when they achieve their goal. The pardon is especially egregious when it comes from a corrupt rightwing clown like Abbott, who shrieks about the two-tiered system of justice as it relates to his fellow corrupt rightwing clown, DJT, but sees nothing wrong about overturning the procedurally proper murder verdict of a jury.

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  11. steve says:

    I guess anything is possible, but I dont find it especially believable, neither did the jury, that a guy with a rifle had it pointed at someone who then had time to pull out a handgun and shoot. It’s virtually impossible that the guy with the rifle couldn’t pull the trigger first. Much more believable that the guy with the rifle was just carrying it and Perry pulled the handgun out and shot him.

    On a side not, my time in the military was a few years back but racism was not uncommon. For the most part people didnt act on it.

    Steve

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  12. gVOR10 says:

    @Jen:

    Imagine having the power to pardon and using it…like…this.

    Honestly, I can’t imagine Abbott using his pardon power, or any other power, for any purpose except his own aggrandizement.

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  13. Gustopher says:

    That Foster was carrying an AK-47 complicates the case considerably

    I have very little sympathy for anyone who is bringing a gun to a protest — even someone on “our side”. It’s done to intimidate. It’s done to silence other people’s rights.

    The Proud Boys like to march through Seattle sporadically and Portland pretty frequently as a show of force. We have freaks that take their assault rifles to coffee shops to “normalize carrying weapons” or whatever. They’re vile.

    Foster may not have been a racist asshole, but he was an asshole.

    Perry stopped his car and honked at protesters as they walked through the street. Seconds later, he drove his car into the crowd, Austin police said.

    We’re not talking a big winner here either. And, under Texas’ law, it seems like Foster would have been justified fearing for his life and shooting Perry right there. And that would have been better, because no one would have pardoned Foster.

    Gun-owner on gun-owner violence. At least they are keeping it contained.

    When assholes collide, sometimes the best we can hope for is one dead and the other in jail and no one else gets hurt. The jury understood that.

    Abbott is disrupting the natural order of things removing assholes, because Abbott is also an asshole, who only wants the law to bind the people he hates. The biggest asshole in this story of assholes.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    Perry was a virulent racist (and quite probably a child molester)

    That moment where you realize you skimmed over something mentioned previously, take a second to search for it, and then realize that you don’t really need to read any of the details. I’m sure Dr. Joyner isn’t casually throwing out child molester claims for no reason.

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  15. Paul L. says:

    So Rittenhouse is still guilty. Good to know when arguing legal niceties here.

    A Progressive streamer claimed that because Rittenhouse was underage drinking at a event for him that proves he has no respect for the law and is guilty of murder.

    “throwing out child molester claims for no reason.”
    I have been called a rapist here because I believed credibly accused rapists who escaped justice on a technicality. I guess the both of us will soon be convicted.

    Foster is now a good commie.

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  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    Texas was already on my Do Not Travel list, but this just underlines why it’s not safe for me to ever go there

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  17. just nutha says:

    @Paul L.: You’re right. Support of a “credibly accused” rapist who is acquitted on legal technicality does not make you a rapist. Please accept my apology on behalf of those who misidentified exactly what kind of [censored] you are.

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  18. Gustopher says:

    @Paul L.:

    I have been called a rapist here

    If Dr. Joyner were to call you a rapist, I would probably assume that he is accurate, as he has a long history of being fairly conservative and cautious with those types of claims.

    You do seem very hung up on potentially false rape accusations, even though those are statistically very rare.

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  19. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’m sure Dr. Joyner isn’t casually throwing out child molester claims for no reason.

    Sorry, no. This was in the Texas Tribune piece:

    The court documents also revealed that Perry sent inappropriate messages to someone who claimed to be 16 years old through Kik Messenger, a communication platform that has been used to share child pornography.

    “Also promise me no nudes until you are old enough to be of age,” Perry wrote, the same month he shot and killed Foster.

    Before signing off, Perry wrote, “I am going to bed come up with a reason why I should be your boyfriend before I wake up.”

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  20. Paul L. says:

    @Gustopher:
    Nope a commenter.
    One of the Professors/Doctors lightly scolded them for going full MeToo/BelieveAllWomen.

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  21. Hal_10000 says:

    Between this and Trump’s promise to pardon the J6 rioters, the GOP is basically legalizing terrorism.

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  22. Paine says:

    “Between this and Trump’s promise to pardon the J6 rioters, the GOP is basically legalizing terrorism.”

    Right. And liberals like myself just have to put up with it? At what point does the basic survival instinct kick in and we realize that these people are out to kill us and the longer we share a country with these yahoos the more danger we are in? Rittenhouse. Perry. It’s OK to plow through protestors in your car. I don’t see blue states putting their conservative citizens at any sort of additional risk through legislation.

    I’m sick of these people.

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  23. Kathy says:

    “Shitty people with shitty values”

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